Why Can’t I Recycle My Paper Coffee Cup?

Most people don’t realise that paper coffee cups are not recyclable.  What most don’t realise, is that almost all of these cups contain up to 5% polyethylene plastic.  That plastic is what allows the paper cup to hold your liquid but it’s also why your paper coffee cup can’t be recycled. 


The Problem 

The problem is that polyethylene doesn’t break down and decompose for approximately 20 years and the plastic in these cups is why they can’t be recycled with all other paper products.  

These disposable cups must be sent to a facility with the appropriate technical capability of separating the plastic from the actual paper product. In order to recycle these paper coffee cups they must be pulped in water to separate the polyethylene lining from the paper.  So not only is it a different process to recycling other paper products, it’s more involved, takes more time, and therefore uses more energy. 


The Issues Raised by the Problem 

Australians throw away over 1 billion takeaway cups and lids each year.  That’s almost 2.7 million paper cups thrown away every day!  While the lids and the corrugated cardboard sleeves are recyclable, the actual cup usually ends up in a landfill. 

It’s estimated that paper cups are the 2nd largest contributor to waste after plastic bottles. 

In addition, these types of disposable cups are generally not made of recycled products because of hygiene and food safety concerns.  Therefore, they come from virgin materials and newly fallen trees, compounding their impact on the ecosystem.  


The Good News 

The good news is there are more economical and planet friendly alternatives to the disposable paper cup.  There is an enormous selection of reusable coffee cups on the market.  

These reusable coffee cups are made from glass, BPA-free plastic, acrylic, metal, and even bamboo.  They come in a huge range of colors, shapes and sizes.  They also have several types of features to choose from like splash-proof lids, slider lids, or push button lids.  Some cups are insulated or you can choose from various types of sleeves to protect your fingers while holding your hot cup.  Most are dishwasher safe.  And if they are maintained properly they will last for years, making them highly economical.  And as an added bonus, many cafes offer discounts for bringing your own reusable coffee cup instead of using the takeaway ones. 

The reusable coffee cup is not only eco-friendly, but by using them we help to reduce unnecessary waste and help to stop filling our landfills.  In making this small change we can begin to work toward minimising our contribution to the impact of plastics on our environment. 

Ensure you check out our range of eco-friendly, sustainable, reusable and plastic-free alternatives at Little Eco Shop (www.littleecoshop.com)

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